Avengers: Age of Ultron Blu-ray Review
Avengers: The Age of Marvel
Long but suitably epic, action-packed but sufficiently story-driven, it's hard not to admire Marvel’s capacity to consistently deliver bigger and better.Retaining the darker themes and suitably threatening momentum established in the game-changing Winter Soldier, Age of Ultron proves that the superb Guardians of the Galaxy was merely a glorious bit of comparatively light relief on the way to what will likely be a trio of punishing Avengers outings. With the world still reeling from the revelations about SHIELD, and still undecided about the enforcement tactics of the Avengers team, it doesn’t take long before things take a dark turn as a newly-created enemy seeks to not only destroy them, but tear them apart from within, furthering the already weary public sentiments towards them. The first Avengers outing gave them a reason to fight together, but Age of Ultron gives them a reason to die together.Although the highlight is probably the Hulk/Black Widow arc, ultimately this is a truly epic tale, well-plotted and expansive. With so many new characters, and so many large-scale events, it’s a tribute to Whedon that he manages to rein everything in and deliver a grand-scale 'Hulkbuster' of a movie which very rarely feels like effects for effects sake, and seldom goes for spectacular setpieces which are all show and have no thought behind them. And, despite the gritty, darker undertones that have carried over from Winter Soldier, Whedon’s trademark wit still creeps out, with several great jokes which are peppered across the piece provoking genuine laugh-out-loud moments, but never detracting from the ferocity or seriousness of the events happening behind them.
Picture QualityThis Region Free UK Steelbook Blu-ray release of Age of Ultron provides both a 1080p/AVC-encoded 2D version and the 1080p/MVC-encoded 3D version, on separate discs, in the film’s original theatrical aspect ratio of 2.40:1 widescreen, both of which largely look striking and demo-worthy.
In both its 2D and 3D guises Age of Ultron makes for demo material.
Unsurprisingly the 2D looks slightly better than the 3D conversion, but both are generally very impressive. The former boasts superb clarity, outstanding detail and some genuinely picture-perfect moments, allowing you to arguably better appreciate the visual feast more than even at the cinema. The colour scheme is broad, with some striking tones amidst the varying landscapes and settings, whether snowy winter woods or lush green plains. Black levels are strong and deep with superb shadow detail. Close-ups impress, but longer shots also boast outstanding fine detail, with excellent textures across the layers. There is some inherent stylisation applied to the piece, not only in following suit from the tone of Winter Soldier, but also in the varying settings applied this time around, and particular moments - like the various 'dream' sequences' are heavily manipulated, but on purpose. There's little here that wasn't evident on a Theatrical viewing and at home you get to enjoy all the best bits at your leisure.
There’s even a fair amount of depth to the piece, although when you turn to the 3D counterpart you can see the more overtly framed 3D-designed shots truly spring to life. The ensemble slo-mo opening sequence shot stands out, but so too do many of the latter Ultron army scenes, whilst characters are well rounded and given some strong integration into the backdrops. There’s plenty of CG on offer here, so the fact that it’s a conversion doesn’t really cause too many problems (and perhaps that’s been the case for a while now), with several standout flourishes designed to show the benefits of the 3D format over its 2D sibling. Ultimately, despite these moments, it’s not quite as impressive a visual offering as the 2D counterpart, but that’s probably more to do with the standout excellence of the latter than because of any real issues with the former.
The accompanying DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 track, identical on both versions, is a well-staged piece of aural majesty.
Punchy and effects-dominated, the track is still precise and well-nuanced, promoting dialogue up-front-and-centre throughout the piece, clearly and coherently rising above the rest, whilst the score engages with an excellent backing theme that further enhances both the tone and the impact of the film’s key set-pieces. Effects are striking not only in the heavy action department – with Hulk vs. Hulkbuster standing out alongside the epic finale – but also in their individual makeup, with Iron Man’s high-pitched charge-up blasts, Thor’s thrumming hammer blows, Cap’s boomerang shield throws, Hawkeye’s myriad arrow options and Black Widow’s high-tech kit all given their own voice, whilst Hulk delivers the most LFE-welcoming thumps as he bashes and crashes his way around the stage. Utterly demo-worthy throughout, and resoundingly reference from start to finish, Age of Ultron offers premium performance on the aural front.
ExtrasAge of Ultron comes with an impressive Zavvi Exclusive Steelbook package that matches up to its first release of the original Avengers movie, with a matte black finish (that might disappoint some) but comes sporting a spot gloss embossed Avengers ‘A’ symbol, suitably Ultron-ified with robotic steel style and electronic red flourishes which is hard not to appreciate. Sporting a bevy of characters across the spine (the most we’ve had yet) it’ll look great whatever way you display it.
With an impressive Steelbook to match up to the first movie, as well as a decent selection of extras, this is a solid release.
Unfortunately you do get the feeling that they may be holding something back, particularly on the extras front, with the much-rumoured extended cut (who knows whether it’s actually an hour longer) nowhere to be found and only a quartet of short deleted scenes (tellingly, only one of which - The Cave - would really warrant re-insertion) present here.
Headlining the extras is an Audio Commentary with Whedon himself, who is engaging, amusing and passionate as ever, providing a welcome accompaniment to the epic main feature. A few small Featurettes offer no significant meat, but are better than nothing, with From the Inside Out – Making of ‘Avengers: Age of Ultron’ looking behind most of the action and effects sequences and Global Adventure looking at the locations used. The Infinite Six Featurette is probably the highlight, with a further look at the Infinity Stones and how they are all leading to Thanos and the Infinity War, with the disc rounded off by a Sneak Peek at Ant-Man and a fun but light Gag Reel.
Steelbook Blu-ray VerdictIt’s hard to judge Age of Ultron apart from all that has come before it – as a standalone movie – and with that it’s a thoroughly engaging, better-thought-out-than-normal action extravaganza on an unprecedented scale, and with an impressive ensemble superhero cast. For those who have watched all the other Marvel instalments before it, and in preparation for it, this is yet another milestone event.
Age of Ultron had huge expectations to live up to, and it unquestionably does just that.
The UK Region Free Blu-ray debut of this Avengers sequel comes in several different flavours – 2D, 3D, or this, an impressive Zavvi Exclusive 2D/3D Steelbook which sits well alongside their initial release of the first movie. With superb technical features, and a decent enough selection of extras, fans should be chomping at the bit to get their hands on this.
Suggested retail price when reviewed: £20.00
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